Daniel Shields or William Shiels

A British intelligence agent who probably caused the most damage to the IRA in Cork to the republican war effort Daniel Shields/ William Shiels (there are various interpretations of his name. An ex-British soldier who had joined the Kanturk Column of the IRA in north Cork and was responsible for the deaths of nine IRA Volunteers at Nadd and Mourne Abbey.

It is difficult to know for certain what happened to Shields. He certainly disappeared, and could have been killed by the IRA or been helped to successfully escape by the British like Cruxy Connor. There are no claims by the IRA to have killed him, so the balance of probability is the British got him out safely

With so little to go on, I cannot establish for certain that the man below is who we are after. The only real clue is that he drew a British Army Pension at Kanturk. The man information below is internally consistant, but I cannot be 100% certain that the man in Australia is our man, but there is a strong probablility that he is.

1894 Nov 15 Born Tralee Union Workhouse

His brother Daniel was born in Killarney Workhouse. The father is cited as a Tramp

1901 census at Loumanagh North, Doonasleen, Cork. This appears to be the same address as on the Pension Card

1911 census He is not with his parents


1915 Aug Enlists in Royal Munster Fusiliers. There is a William Shields who was getting a British Army pension and who enlisted as 6735 in A Coy, 2nd RMF before being transferred to HLI as 64286. The Pension Card show he had fracture of Rt Clavicle (collar bone) and Rt Thigh. This information ties him to the William Shields, born 1894 above with the same address.

1916 Jun Landed in France

1916 Dec 3. There is Medical Record for him Admitted to no.18 General Hospital at Camiers from the 21 Ambulance Train with Pyrexia of unknown origin (PUO), and transferred to to No 6 Convalescent Depot on 7 Dec 1916.

1918 Jun He would have transferred to the Highland Light Infantry (regimental number) , most likely the 21st Battalion in Ramsgate at the time.

1920 Nov 23. Notes from pension ledger and index card: Date of award 20% Disablement. Pension (Conditional) 8 /- per week to 2 Nov 1920 Date of award 27 Oct 1920 Interim Pension (Conditional) 8 /- per week 3 Nov 1920 to 4 Jan 1921 Date of award 30 Dec 1920 1 to 5% Disablement. Final Gratuity £10 31 Dec 1920 File Final Put Away 19 Dec 1921 File Put Away 10 July 1925 OK Stamp on Card 21 Aug 1930 Coding to C O C to 60381/OS/M (Coding to Continuance of Certification to 60381/oversea’s/military)

This fits with

a) Coming from the general area of Kanturk

b) Living at Boherbue, Banteer, Cork

c) He would have drawn a pension at Kanturk Post Office

1920 & 1921 . He joins the Kanturk Battalion of the IRA. The information on the man is scanty. He had been accepted by the IRA, so the probability is that he was known by someone in the area. He was an ex-soldier, This statement confirms that he was from Boherbee

IRA Witness Statement Shiels was an ex-British soldier who joined the Kanturk Battalion sometime in 1920. He worked as a farm labourer in the Kanturk locality. Something of a braggart, he was very fond of drink and, generally, was not popular with the unit. While he participated in the training activities of the battalion column he was always absent, on some pretext, when an engagement was due .In January (or early February) of 1921, a brigade meeting was held at Gortmore (near Lombardstown) and the assembled battalion commanders were then informed of the plans for the Mourne Abbey ambush. The Kanturk Battalion Commander was present, but his unit were not ordered to participate in the ambush, but to hold themselves in readiness.

On his return from the brigade conference, the Kanturk Battalion Commander discussed some of these matters in Brides of Nadd, with some of the members of his unit. Shiels was present then In March of 1921, Shiels was with the Kanturk Battalion Column at the brigade headquarters at Nadd. He went into Kanturk to draw his British army pension. The I.O.of the Kanturk Battalion (Michael Moore) noted that Shiels was drinking in the Kanturk public houses, and then became aware of the fact that Shiels had called at the Kanturk R.I.C. Bks. Moore sent a dispatch with all haste to Nadd. The dispatch never arrived .Next morning there was a huge dawn concentration of British military on Nadd and convoys of troops from Kanturk, Ballincollig, Fermoy, Buttevant and Tralee encircled the mountain. General Liam Lynch and his staff got through the one gap in the khaki ring, but Volunteers Kiely, Herlihy and Twomey of the Kanturk Battalion were surprised asleep in Herlihy's house with Joe Morgan, Lieut. Ned Waters and Volunteer John Moloney of the Mallow Battalion. As they were being lined up in their stockinged feet to be executed at the rear of the cottage, Morgan and Moloney made a daring break for liberty. Both were wounded, but succeeded in escaping into the mist. Both are still alive. The others were shot where they stood. Shiels was at Nadd that morning with the British. He was in Black and Tan uniform and was recognised and saluted by Tom Bride of Nadd, the proprietor of the pub there. He disappeared and was never traced. Hundreds of photographs of him were circulated by the I.R.A. to England and America but he was not found. He is believed dead

IRA Witness Statement About this time (late February) our column was joined in Kilcorney area by members of the Kanturk battalion column. One member of this column was an ex British soldier named Shiels. When the column had been with us for some days, during which we took up abortive ambush positions on a couple of occasions, some members of our column got suspicious of Shiels as he was continually asking questions regarding the whereabouts of Liam Lynch. I also remember that on one occasion Shiels wanted to go into Millstreet on a fair day, but our column leader (Jeremiah Crowley) would not allow him to go The suspicions regarding Shiels were discussed with Denis Lyons (0/C, Kanturk Battalion), but he assured our leader that Shiels was O.K. The Kanturk column returned to their home area in the early days of March 1921.

IRA Witness Statement The presence of Shiels with the enemy forces at Nadd led to an investigation which revealed that he had been seen to enter the R.I.C .barracks at Kanturk on the evening of March 9th 1921. Information to this effect was sent in a despatch by the I.0. (Michael Moore) at Kanturk to Battalion H.Q. ,but it was never conveyed to Brigade H.Q. If this information had been conveyed to Brigade H.Q., the enemy raid would not have resulted as it did, in the death of three men (Michael Kiely, Ned Waters, Tom Herlihy) and the wounding of two others (JoeMorgan, Jack "Congo" Moloney). I should have mentioned that Shiels was identified as one of the enemy party by Tom Bride a publican at Nadd whose home was visited by the raiders. The establishment of the fact that Shiels was in contact with the enemy led to a further investigation of the incidents at Mourne Abbey on February 15th, 1921. It then transpired that the 0/C Kanturk Battalion Column (Denis Lyons) had informed Shiels, in company with the other members of his column, on Sunday evening, 13th February,1921 ,that the operation planned for Mourne Abbey on February 15th was to take place. Having regard to the evidence of his association with the enemy forces at Nadd, it is naturally to be assumed that he was the individual who conveyed the information to the enemy


1921 Feb 15. The Mourne Abbey Ambush resulted in the death of 4 IRA men, plus two more captured and exeuted by the British. The Pension application of Riverstown Coy of IRA claimed to have executed Shields, but this is not confirmed anywhere in the Witness Statements. My feeling was that they were trying to substantiate their pension claim here, and that they did not execute him.

In Dec 2020 I had this email from a descendant of William Patrick Shields

It seems William Patrick Shields made his way to Australia and lived in Yallourn North - a coal mining town in Gippsland. - No arrival records found containing William Patrick Shields (into Australia) - Had a head injury from “The War” - Devout Catholic, helped with the building of catholic churches throughout the Gippsland region - Wanted to desperately to return to Ireland - Married an Australian (Eileen) - He was found guilty of murder in 1948 in Australia - William Patrick Shields died in 1960 at the Kew Hygiene Facility (Kew, Melbourne, Australia) We’ve had a few history buffs, University historians from Ireland contact us about the Shields line - in particular ‘Dan Shiels’. This email probably raises more questions than answers but I can confirm that one of these brothers came to Australia and lived until 1960. So someone made it out of Ireland, and now as I suspect, probably with the help of the British

1922 Mar 9, A William Shields sails on SS Baradine from London to Melbourne , Aus. I cannot establish if this is him or not - I think that it is. Sailed from London, giving an address as 6 Eccleston St, Victoria , London .which was Duke of Connaught's Soldiers' and Sailors' Home. He gave his age as 25. It is possible that the British shipped him out under an alias. But remarkably the British never seemed clever enough to do that - for example, the similar case of Cruxy Connor had him shipped out under his own name . Given that a hit squad was sent after Cruxy Connor, Shields would have had to work on the assumption that they could be after him too.

1924 Jun 3. Married Eileen May MORTON in Victoria , Australia

1948 Feb 2, Murdered his wife, later tried and sentenced to 7 years for Manslaughter


1954 Electoral roll living at Trafalgar, McMillan, Victoria, Australia. No occupation


1960 Sep 1. Died Australia at Kew Hygiene Facility (Kew, Melbourne, Australia) . Kew operated throughout the 20th century as a "hospital for the insane", "mental hospital", or "psychiatric hospital", treating acute, long-term and geriatric patients until it closed in December 1988

The information on his earlier life in Ireland was somewhat vague

Scotland Yard Spies